There are deities in Tibetan Buddhism whose ‘jobs’ revolve around actively protecting faithful Buddhists from evil, inside & out. Palden Llamo is one of my favourites, the only female among the 8 Dharampalas. She is the protector of Buddhist governments, but is also a rabid pacifist, sacrificing her own child to force her war-monger husband to acknowledge the grief of loss. I’m not quite that pacificistic, but you have to admire the woman’s principles. She’s the queen of wrathful compassion — doing good with her anger. Even the Dalai Lama said that if we allow evil to live, we are complicit in its effects.
Anger is what Buddhists call a ‘mind poison,’ one of the klēshas. In other words, it’s a root of suffering. You think?? So: what do we do with this hatred?? The wonderful Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says we cultivate patience. Patience that is fearless (because we have to acknowledge our anger, and face the causes of it). Patience that is kind — What! I’m angry AGAIN??? This is one I’m intimately well acquainted with! Patience that is ongoing, because we will never ‘master’ our human natures. We just have to keep trying.
To some of us, that sounds depressing. But as I think about it? It’s actually kind of comforting: this is who we are, human beings — angry at something or someone. A kind of attachment (there’s that state again!) that we try to let go. In other words? We work to become more than our anger, by learning patience.
So I’m working on just sitting with my anger. Not posting (what I see as) the idiocy of haters. To do so allies myself not with compassion, not with patience, but with the anger surging like the tide in my hot hot blood. I won’t pretend it’s easy, not with a rising death toll, and an inability of power to see how unfair it can be. But I’m not going to be of much use if I feed these flames. Instead, I’ll work for peace — for equity & social justice. And I’ll have to even be patient for those…
Facebook makes me crazy. True confession, that. Since I don’t unfriend folks who don’t agree with my spiritual beliefs, politics, or other values (how would I LEARN???), I find myself often drowning in anger directed at all of the above. Take the tragedy in Dallas.
I am heartbroken, for ALL the famlies affected. Obviously there is grief for the slain & injured officers. But also, my grief includes the mother who raised a black son who has seen his friends, perhaps his own siblings targeted w/ impunity by police across the US. I understand that the 5 police who died in Dallas are NOT the police who murdered Sandra Bland, or Philando Castile. Or the child Tamir Rice. Or Jonathan Farrell. Or any of the more than 100 unarmed African Americans (men, women, children) killed in 2015 alone.
But here’s what white people — at least far too many — don’t get: if this were MY son? MY daughter? I’d be out for blood as well. Almost NONE of the police who beat to death/ shot to death/ bludgeoned to death unarmed African Americans was even arrested. They certainly didn’t go to prison. How can white America think it’s okay for a man who was asked to produce his wallet to be shot to death? This is ON FILM, folks — it’s not someone’s word against someone else’s. With a CHILD in the car. If that were YOUR son, daughter (remember Sandra Bland??), father, best friend… How would YOU feel? Why on EARTH do we expect black Americans to just take this god-awful murderous behaviour??
Please note: I have a dearly loved nephew who is state police. EVERY ONE of these murders (by the white police, NOT this most recent relatively rare occurence) endangers him. Because at some point, people DO break. As the shooter in Dallas did. Yes: he said he wanted to kill white people. He came right out and SAID IT. And why do you think that is? Do you think this is a rage w/out reason, however tragic?
I find myself angry all over again at the fear and hatred lapping at the edges of my life like an incoming tide. Angry at the hatred that is a blazing fire raging. It seems only elemental metaphors and similes work — people are consumed with hatred. And then I find myself succumbing, and hating them back…
What is the matter with us? ALL of us?? I keep asking in various ways — what is wrong with us? And what was s/he thinking? And too many times the answer seems to be that we weren’t thinking: we were just reacting. Out of fear and hatred. Me too, I confess shamefully. Me too.
But for someone writing a blog about compassion, about talking together, this is a confession I shouldn’t need to make. I should, as Susan Moon, a writer I admire tremendously says,
“[p]ractice deep listening: Listen without arguing, and try to hear what the other is really saying, remembering that, as Buddha pointed out, all beings wish to be happy and avoid suffering. A Buddhist practices nonattachment to views. If we human beings are going to stick around on this earth, we need to learn to get along not just with the people who share our views, but also, and more to the point, with the people who get our goat. And remember—we get their goat, too.”
I’m trying, Susan — but it’s VERY hard. Fortunately, I know about wrathful compassion — a Buddhist term I try NOT to fall back on as a way to excuse hatred. I understand the desperation that drove the black shooter to murder 5 police. I have more trouble w/ shooting unarmed men, women & children, or bludgeoning to death the mentally challenged, the physically disabled (both have happened to black Americans). Tomorrow we’ll look at wrathful compassion, and how to work through (even righteous) anger.